Andre (Trai Byers) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) in a scene from the “Cupid Kills” episode of Empire
Chuck Hodes/Fox

Empire’s Cookie Lyon is arguably the most colorful character on TV. In last night’s episode, “Cupid Kills,” Miss Cookie was the star of the episode. She was loud, uncouth and justifiably hostile—that’s the Cookie we all know and love. With the spotlight on Cookie, clearly defined story arcs and a deliciously ludicrous ending, Empire delivered what is arguably its best episode since the end of season 1. Let’s go!

Shyne’s protégé, Nessa, is beautiful, talented and the best new artist to come along in quite some time, so Lucious can’t wait to add her to the Empire roster. He and Andre go to Shyne’s shabby studio with the paperwork, and Lucious promises his son that he’s about to get “an experience only a black woman can give you.” How long has Rhonda been dead? How much time has passed in the show’s timeline? Shut up, Lucious—the recently widowed Andre doesn’t have any interest in other women yet, right, Andre? Andre?

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Andre can’t talk right now; he’s too busy being mesmerized by Nessa’s voice. And when he gets his first look at Nessa, Andre practically has cartoon hearts where his eyes should be. Andre better watch it—Rhonda has already shown up twice to haunt him. Back to Nessa: Shyne has organized a bidding war so that Lucious has to fight if he wants to sign her. Obviously Lucious will win, so we can move on.

Angelo really wants to impress Cookie, so he takes her on a date but doesn’t mention that they are going to the opera. Cookie shows up in a low-cut, tight, red micro dress. It’s the most demure outfit she has. Cookie’s got on her hoop earrings and glitter eye shadow. Go on, Cookie! She is at her finest.

Angelo introduces her to two bougie heifers who try to shade Cookie. Nobody talks to Cookie like that. One of them says she summers at Martha’s Vineyard and mockingly asks where Cookie summers. Our girl comes back with, “Actually, I have summered in Connecticut, at the Danbury Federal Correctional Facility for Women.” It turns out that La Bohème—the story of a woman caught between two men—resonates with Cookie, who is so moved that she jumps out of her seat and hollers, “You better sing it, girl!”

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Later on, in the ladies’ room, Cookie overhears those bitches referring to her as a “hood rat” and “charity case.” Poor Cookie looks so wounded. She confronts them with: “I’ve got a charity for you: Make a Wish. You know that one? Once I get finished whupping both of y’all asses, you gonna wish you never met a hood rat like me.”

As glorious as it is, Cookie’s night at the opera isn’t just random—it ties into the tale-of-two-Cookies storyline that we’ve been seeing in all those flashbacks. Cookie was a studious good girl before she met Lucious—or, as her father correctly calls him, Lucifer. She had an upstanding young boyfriend and would have had a different life if she hadn’t fallen for Lucious, who was already an awful person. He got rid of his competition for Cookie by curb-stomping her beau. La Bohème’s theme of two choices brings some connectedness to the episode. Cookie can stay wrapped up with Lucious or try a new lifestyle with Angelo.

Andre is also faced with two worlds: the one where he is a successful black man with an upscale lifestyle and the one where he might get shot by a cop for living while black. At the beginning of the episode, he’s rattled when a cop drives by, glaring at him and Lucious. He can also choose whether to act like Lucious or be a sane human being. He leans toward the former when Shyne comes looking for trouble and gets aggressive about the deal to sign Nessa. Lucious and Andre join together to give him quite the beating. Bad move; Shyne has a posse and an arsenal of weapons, so this is not going to end well.

Other stuff happens. Jamal, who has had post-traumatic stress disorder since Freda shot him, still wants to help her, especially when he sees that she’s been beaten bloody by inmates who are his fans. To make a long story short, he gets her bailed out by using an insanity defense and later finds out that he was playing into Lucious’ hands. She’s out of prison and won’t testify that Lucious killed her dad, because who’d believe an insane woman? Jamal feels betrayed, mixing pills and booze and headed toward addiction. That’s sad but not exciting. We know he’ll be hooked for a minute and then get cured in an episode.

What is exciting is the fact that Rhonda may be dead but her ghost is kinky. When Andre is about to have sex with Nessa (that was fast!), Rhonda doesn’t get mad; she joins in. Yes, Empire concluded the episode with a ghost threesome. Cookie in the limelight and ghost sex means Empire has its head in the game again. Game on.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the World Series is over to see what happens next.

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Elaine G. Flores is a New York writer, editor and bon vivant. She’s a hard-core shipper and excommunicated soap opera reviewer. Her fictional dinner-party guests include Omar Little, Buffy Summers, Abigail Mills and Ichabod Crane. You can visit her site, TV Recappers Delight.